Jeffrey Levine

Jeffrey Levine

The Color of Cardinals

as the antithesis of snow, as antidote to sand, as allowing for passage
through a certain kind of incandescence—things disappear—

they disappear and with them, conventional itineraries,
subterranean walls, passion fruit or the unwound string, and better,

the last half note of your favorite Brandenburg or best,
the weathered skin of the old men up in the hills,

what they drink, what they wear around their necks,
(the color of your lips) (the color of theirs) what they think or anyway,

that pigment in the desert cliffs, up there toward the top and in them,
nearly visible in the first blush of morning, the stunned red birds.

Entering This Room

you can't help thinking, ok, I am a set of orchid vases, or the orchids
themselves, clustered and supplicating, blotched yellow, white and black.

I am one—, you think, half Italian pewter and one-quarter handblown glassware—
enough to set for six guests or ten. Surely this part of me was fired in the Philippines

then cooled in the rain by women who despite their age were not unused to dance,
and this part hatched under a thick cover of untouched snow.

I light myself in pairs, sit on the window or hang in that corner niche from an iron nail
wrapped around my wrists with parti-colored raffia, they're under the old sconce

that gives too little light. I am velum, I think, for dreaming, I am rice pearls strung
and clasped with a silver heart in place of the old one, worn, grown tired and better off

this way I woe-is-me before the you must leave the room now thought, you think,
leave it now—too dangerous, you think, it is too, you think, much of you.

As the Waiter Refills the Catsup, We Want to Know More

about, of all things, all things. Well, hell. Forgive us, for we know not
what we ask, as if when rising from the table the distance rubs together
two different musics and one of us points out for the final time
the undulant landscape, the one in which we wished unmade our last wish
or remade the one before that, the one that failed.
Look, I'm still holding on to my spoon, and on to hunger, you say, consoling,
I say, I'd turn on myself if a story could explain the heart's version of the facts,
and face it, this is the most we can expect from faith. Love is almost love enough—

that's how it is and damn the sky, all of it, damn the half-bitten moon and damn
its dim-witted light, damn the promises and the incompetence of stars and damn
that riders snap to attention where the bay curves against its will and the lights
with it, and the distances turn to water and, watching from the pier as the wind
moves past, then the sticks, then the straw, that sadness rises—
as all the names we also failed. But love is not the point. In particular,
that thing happened again in your eyes, though you said no, then yes,
and no fifties slow song slipped like a waiter's tip into the there-not there.
We have how many more times seen this, as the waiter sizes up the condiments,
sweeps to the floor our shared crumbs and sets down those heavy white cups,
each one with a telling thwunk—half-and-half?

I do not mean to say that everything is lost—far from it, and anyway,
we can dance, and should, and do, right there in the diner, past the bus stand
and the tired cook and the traveler who cannot read his map.

To order Jeffrey's new book, book coverMortal, Everlasting contact www.pavementsaw.org

Jeffrey is the founding editor of Tupelo Press

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